Gauge Your Organization’s ‘Growthiness’
By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
Over the course of thirty years of helping senior executives to grow their businesses, we’ve developed the ability to quickly assess an organization’s predisposition to growth – usually in 90-180 minutes. If you’d like to know your organization’s forecast, here are four questions to ask.
Why It Works
Our wanderings through hundreds upon hundreds of offices, boardrooms, cubicles, factory plants, paint shops and warehouses – asking some version of the same questions over and over again – have coalesced into a series of intuitive pattern recognitions which, when taken together, provide us with a primitive ‘growthiness index’ if you will. In other words, a rough stab at whether or not this particular business at this particular time is predisposed toward growth or not.
This insta-take on growthiness isn’t a shortcut to all that much. In our work with senior executives, it simplifies the number of variables we have to think about, helps us direct our questions accordingly, gives us a backdrop against which to work, and helps avoid going down unprofitable lines of inquiry. Occasionally our conclusions have been wrong of course, but they’ve been right more often than not, and often enough for me to trust the process.
Here are the four main indicators that we’ve found provide evidence of growthiness. In the space of a blog post, I can only give a taste of what we’re looking for in each, but you’ll get the gist:
1. A pervasive positive outlook
Organizations inclined toward growth display a positive outlook in every area of their operations. This means not just in the C-suite or on the sales team or at the receptionist’s desk, but also in the mail room, the janitor’s office, the IT department – everywhere.
And by ‘positive’, I don’t mean jaunty or willfully ignorant people, or just wishful thinking – I’m talking about knowledgeably informed people who have an openness and a tendency to focus on success and opportunity more than on failure.
We can usually gauge this by simply wandering around and talking to people without any fanfare.
2. An adult relationship to data
Organizations that are predisposed to grow have a mature attitude to information: it’s just data, to be seen in its undisguised truth and acted upon accordingly. There’s neither a “I don’t want to know the facts – I might have cancer” nor a “You better have hit your numbers – don’t bring me bad news” approach. The numbers are what they are, and we’d better deal with them.
Twenty minutes discussing recent results or future projections with the senior team will give a good read on this.
3. Individuals with informed horizons
All senior executives work to a ‘horizon window’ – the farthest point they’re looking at when making strategic decisions. An executive team with an insular horizon window – one which is relentlessly focused solely on the closed world of the organization itself – tends to get mired in tactical firefighting and constant maintenance/improvement/remedying of internal operations. They have a low growthiness index.
Conversely, an executive team with too far a horizon window (all strategic vision, all the time) is one which gets caught up in building castles in the sky and has difficulty implementing in the real world. They too have a low growthiness index.
The ideal is to find an executive team comprised of individuals with appropriately informed horizons – individuals able to switch as needed between the internal (organizational) horizon, their industry as a whole and the key strategic imperatives within it, and the overall economic/macro situation within which their organization and the industry as a whole is operating.
A 45-90 minute session with the executive team will usually bring this out.
4. Team cohesion
The final – and vital – indicator of growthiness is the degree of light that can be shone between key members of the executive team. If in a series of one-on-ones it becomes clear that there are substantial personal or professional differences between the senior team members, then all of the previous three indicators are of naught. If on the other hand there is obvious, authentic unity between the team members, then we’ve got a high growthiness reading.
Here, ‘unity’ doesn’t mean false parroting of inauthentic expressions of agreement. Nor does it assume that everyone is in love with everyone else. It simply means that there is real, genuine, deep debate within the executive team when they are together, and an equally real, genuine acceptance of cabinet responsibility for the final decision when it is made – no cop-outs, no eye-rolling, no undermining other team members.
How’s your business doing with the four factors of growthiness?